Food - Behind the scenes at Krog Street Market
Q&A with Merritt Lancaster, David Cochran, George Banks
In anticipation of KSM's projected wave of late-2014 debuts, Creative Loafing caught up with developers George Banks, Merritt Lancaster, and David Cochran of Paces Properties to chat about their inspirations, what to expect from the finished project, and the vendors they're most excited about.
Krog Street Market was inspired by what y'all call a "west-coast-style market." What does that mean, exactly?
George Banks: There are a lot of places on the West Coast that were inspirations for us. It's new to Atlanta, and not new to the world. There's Pike Place Market in Seattle. There's Oxbow in Napa. They're our inspiration. The market model is very old. Sweet Auburn is a market. It was common in this country a hundred years ago. We are trying to take the market model and update it for today.
Merritt Lancaster: True markets have been a staple of the world for a long time. I think we got away from that as a culture, but there is a new focus on food and its quality, and it's very hard for one place to provide everything at its pinnacle. The "Cheesecake Factory model" is something that we are looking for the opposite of. We want to provide smaller spaces for artists to show off what they produce. We want people who are at the pinnacle of what they are working on. The combination of those efforts will create a greater sum than one person trying to do it all.
You're scheduled to open in late August. What needs to happen between now and then?
ML: The driving force behind the market and its opening is parking. We live in Atlanta, so parking is going to be part of our existence. A large component of that for us is a parking deck that is being built atop the old lot of the Stove Works building. It's scheduled to be completed by the end of August. That said, I don't know that every tenant is going to be ready to open.
David Cochran: The bigger restaurants will take some time. We have two that are almost finished already. Eli Kirshtein's the Luminary is days away, maybe a week, and Craft Izakaya is hoping for mid-August. Ford Fry and Kevin Maxey's Tex-Mex joint, Superica is under construction. Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams started a week or two ago.
How have the folks in the neighborhood taken to the development?
ML: I live in the neighborhood, so this is a bit of a strange comment: Developing Inman Park has been historically difficult. We met ... the resistance of the neighborhood. But by the time we actually put a shovel in the ground, we went from being the least popular developers in the neighborhood to having what we felt like was full support of the neighborhood because we kept a dialogue open and responded to their needs. We keep hearing from people that they're excited. That's one of the most rewarding things.
DC: The positive vibe we have with the neighborhood is one of the most rewarding things.
Who are some of the vendors folks are most excited about?
DC: Ford Fry was the big fish we landed in the beginning. ... The math makes a lot of sense in terms of capital outlay. It's not like chefs had to raise half a million dollars to execute a new concept. They had to punch it down to a ... stall, and then when they were done they had another market. For some of them, it was a great way to expand and promote in a different way. Todd Ginsberg of General Muir, whose Fred's Meat & Bread will be part of KSM has always been known for his amazing burger, but the other night he was playing around, making pastrami, lettuce, and tomato, a PLT. It was some of the best pastrami I've ever had. And Yalla is his new Mediterranean cuisine, kind of Lebanese and Israeli-influenced.
What's been the proudest moment of this project so far?
GB: The number of people who've come up to me — restaurateurs, chefs, developers, lenders — and said, "You know, I didn't think you were going to pull this off, and I'm a little shocked and amazed that you did. Congratulations."
DC: That's the biggest compliment in the world.